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Restaurant Review

Restaurant Reviews

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NEWCOMERS

CORNER BAKERY

IT TOOK TWO OF THE TOP MONEY-MINDS IN the business to come up the simplest idea ever. The restaurant world’s dream team, Richard Melman (owner of Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You) and Dallas’ own Norman Brinker, joined forces to open Comer Bakery, a restaurant themed around the staff of life. Dallas’ first outlet opened not far from the center of the city (which I’ve heard is actually near LBJ and the Tollway), at Park Boulevard and Preston Road. That’s right. In Piano. It’s a typical suburban comer-there’s Starbucks, a megabookstore. Old Navy-and Corner Bakery (its in with its carefully packaged concept designed to recall a time when the corner was a place you walked around to, and parking was never a problem.

The walls inside, painted with a ’30s-sty le mural of bakers with big biceps laboring to make bread, set the tone. And the high windows, dark wood, black-and-white tile floor, and glass cases of bread remind me of a number of bakeries in deep downtown New York. But of course, it’s a historical conceit: Corner Bakery is the product for sale. And we bought it, just as the owners know the rest of America will.

Dallas has a number of excellent bakeries now, but the Bakery holds its own. Country loaves were crusty, and the sweet stuff we sampled-Russian coffee cake, sticky buns, and dense, brick-like brownies-were all excellent. But the advantage Comer Bakery has is the cafe side, We ordered pizza (with the deep-dish, 2-inch sides holding a flat filling), tomato-sauced pasta, and sandwiches. The spinach pizza actually tasted like spinach. The pasta was al dente, and its surprisingly immediate sauce was perfumed with fresh basil.

It’s one of those restaurants where you have to collect your own condiments and tableware, which I deplore but realize is a trend that will soon overwhelm us. Service anywhere is a thing of the past. 2401 Preston Rd., Piano, 972-398-1955. $. (K-2)

-Mary Brown Malouf



LAURELS

IF MATOKE MASH, PEPIAN, AND HUITLA-coche-banana mojo are part of your everyday vocabulary, go to the head of the class. First glance at the exotic menu of the newly refurbished Laurels compounded our confusion over global fusion cuisine and confirmed our dunce status. We were rescued by the expertise of our waiter, who decoded the menu into a knockout, five-course, around-the-world orgy of tastes.

Rising star executive chef and general manager Danielle Custer brings her cutting-edge weird (in the good sense of the word) cuisine from Seattle’s top-rated Fullers to Sheraton Park Central’s 20th floor. She has done a good job transforming the bland space into a contemporary dining room that is only a backdrop for an incomparable view of Dallas. Her attention to detail is evident from the informed waiters right down to the hand-blown hurricane lamps on each table.

Incomprehensible dishes like a champagne, roasted Red Sensation, and Bosc pear soup with plum wine crème fraiche don’t make sense until you put them in your mouth. And who in their right mind would order smoked mushroom stuffed range chicken with coconut orange collard greens and spicy currant com cakes in a lemon grass red mole sauce? You just have to trust Custer: She thinks with her palate and the results are brilliant. Post-dinner coffee is served with small bowls of raw sugar, sticks of cinnamon, whipped cream, and shaved chocolate. Sheraton Park Central, 12720 Merit Dr., 972-385-3000. $S$. (L-4)-Nancy Nichols

TRACI’S

TRACI WITH AN “l”-THAT SHOULD TELL you something right away. This old house is undeniably charming: The bric-a-brac is authentic, the floors are perfectly refin-ished, the colors are lovely, the fixtures are collectors’ items. The fried red tomatoes were good. The desserts-especially the molten-centered chocolate-were good.

We wanted so much to like Traci’s. The location is great, and everyone there is so nice, from the receptionist who told us the cuisine was “home cooking gone gourmet” (we felt a twinge of foreshadowing then), to our waitress who cajoled some negativity out of us about the scorched-tasting lobster and rushed to replace it.

Traci herself was formerly with Nordstrom’s food service division. So was her partner, the bartender, and the chef. That explains the cheery, service-oriented attitude and the good packaging. It might also explain the food. The menu reads all right-“portobello Wellington” isn’t a bad idea. But the pastry that wrapped my mushroom was soggy and the sauce around it was gummy. The breads-a sweet muffin and a poppy seed roll-were stale. “Beef shortcake’” came on a big-thud biscuit that evidently had been beaten to death. By the time we tasted the lobster shepherd’s pie, we couldn’t mask our disappointment at the the thick gluey sauce around the soft, scarce lobster lumps. That’s when our waitress’ prompt replacement of the dish with an identical one proved that the kitchen simply couldn’t tell good food from bad.

Remembering its retail background, we thought lunch might be the meal where Traci’s excelled, so we returned the next day. only to be served a spinach salad that had been doused with syrupy vinaigrette, covered with cheese, and broiled. It’s hard to mess up mac and cheese, but it was inexplicably gray, and the chicken sandwich was both soggy and tough. Let’s not talk about it anymore. 2403 Thomas Ave.,214-849-0007.’$-$$, (K-7)-M.B.M.

BARBECUE



Peggy Sue Barbecue. This ’50s-style joint in Snider Plaza is serving some of the best BBQ in town. Terrific appetizers include Texas Torpedoes-cream cheese-rilled fried jalapenos. Baby back ribs, chicken, polish kielbasa sausage, and brisket are smoked to perfection. Vegetables, usually second-class in the macho world of meat, go first-class here. 6600 Snider Plaza. 214-987-91X8. $. (L-6)



D BEST Sonny Bryan’s. For 40 years, Sonny Bryan’s meaty ribs,moist brisket, and classic barbecue sauce have been the standard by which all other Dallas barbecue is judged. The West End and St. Paul locations maintain the original tastes in fancier settings, but for the classic barbecue experience, return to the original Inwood Road joint, sit on the hood of your car. and gnaw on tenderly smoked ribs and chopped beef. 2202 Inwood Rd., 214-357-7120 (K-6); 302 N. Market St., 214-744-1610 (K-7); 325 N. St. Paul St. (in the tunnel). 214-979-0102 (L-7); 4701 Frank-ford Rd., 972-447-0102 (K-2); Macy’s, 3rd level, Galleria, 972-851-5131.$. (K-4)



BREW PUBS



D BEST Routh Street Brewery and Grill. Although the food has slipped a little, the hand-crafted brew remains some of the finest in Dallas, and an elegant hill country lodge motif with soft lighting makes it a sexy spot fora beer joint. Shy away from the wein-erschnitzle; roasted pork tenderloin fared better. 3011 Routh St., 214-922-8835. $$. (K-7)



Yegua Creek Brewing Co. This home-grown brew pub continues to brew stellar suds, but its menu strays from the burger/pizza path into less-traveled Southwest byways with mixed success. 2920 N. Henderson Ave.. 214-824-BREW. $$. (L-7)



BURGERS/CASUAL



Snuffer’s. The perfect college menu-big burgers, outrageous cheese fries, chicken sandwiches, and chicken Caesar salad. For those with a thirst, there are sneaky margaritas that taste like Slurpees, and, of course, beer. Go early on weekend nights; the crowds build quickly. 3526 Greenville Ave., 214-826-6850 (L-7); 14910 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-991-8811.$. (K-4)



CHINESE



Cafe Panda. The personnel here roll out the red carpet and the mostly excellent food reflects a meticulous attention to detail, performing some service rituals as complex as the cuisine. Start with quail curl and watch as a team of servers performs a near-ballet in bringing it to your table. And finish with tableside French-pressed coffee.7979 Inwood Rd., Ste. 121, 214-902-9500. $-$$.( K-6)



May Dragon. An inscrutable strip center location belies one of the city’s best Chinese restaurants. Just stay away from the neon sweet and sour stuff, and you’ll be happy. Try a duck, instead. 4848 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-392-9998. $$. (K-4)



COFFEEHOUSES



Cafe Brazil. “Brazil” here is a coffee cue, but this cafe is not just another Java joint. The brews are varied and the laid-back attitude of all three locations make them comfortable chat rooms, but the food is better than it has to be. 6420 N. Central Expwy, 214-691-7791 (L-6); 2221 Abrams Rd., 214-826-9522 (L-7); 2815 Elm. Si., 214-747-2730. $. (L-7)



DELI



Deli News. While upscale restaurants have come and gone in Crescent Court’s elite environs. this authentic deli has continued to demonstrate that you don’t have to be from New York to know the Real Thing when you taste it. Hot cabbage borscht, potato pancakes, and rye-wrapped hot pastrami are all wonderful. 500 Crescent Court, Maple Avenue at Cedar Springs Road, 214-922-3354. $-$$. (K-7)



Gilbert’s. All you Yankees pining for the comforts of the Carnegie Deli, stop whining. The Gilbert family enters their 11th year of dishing out potato knishes, stuffed derma, and kasha varnishkas as good as any in the Big Apple. They also have a decent plate of spaghetti and meatballs for the shiksa in your group. 11661 Preston Rd., 214-373-3333. $. (K-4)



EASTERN EUROPEAN



Athenée Cafe. Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant-are you surprised? Stuffed mountain cabbage is a fabulous signature dish-meatball-sized beef rolls oven-roasted in delicate cabbage leaves with a red wine sauce, just like grandma in Transylvania used to make. Other highlights: Rumanian sausage and veal chop. The wine list is adequate. 5365 Spring Valley Rd., Ste. 150, 972-239-8060. $$. (K-4)



ECLECTIC



D REVISITS Bread Winners. One of the prettiest, most atmospheric Old South settings anywhere in Dallas, this Uptown eatery is a favorite among the casual breakfast-brunch-late lunch bunch. Now they have added Wednesday through Sunday dinner to their already crowded schedule. Too-generous servings are our only faint-hearted quibble here-great triangles of grilled polenta lavished in fresh marinara make a main-dish starter; a single wedge of strawberry chocolate torte serves two. Chicken-apple sausage pizza with caramelized onion was our only disappointment-its whole wheat crust was heavy. its toppings bland. Dam-we knew we should have gone with the chicken-fried portobello steak. Great coffee, though. 3301 McKinney Ave., 214-754-4940. $-$$. (L-7)



The Brick Room. Tables on tiers raked amphitheater-style give live jazz lovers a fine view of the bandstand in this suave food-arid-jazz emporium that’s brought a new night-life dimension to Lowest Skillman. Steaks and seafood are main menu draws, pleasant service and a welt-tuned bar keep the all-aged faithful happy between sets. 1925 Skillman St., 214-823-2725. $$. (L-6)



Deep Ellum Cafe. The first legitimate restaurant in Deep Ellum has a lot of competition now, and though this is still one of the most pleasant places to be in downtown, sometimes the food is not so pleasant. The kitchen seems bored with the standards like chicken and dill dumplings and Vietnamese chicken salad; specials are a better bet. Sit outside-front or back-if you can. 2704 Elm St., 214-741 -9012.$-$$. (L-7)



Firehouse. This restaurant is the ultimate in food cross-dressing. Chef Bruno Giovanni Mella displays great dexterity in crossing pork chops with mango salsa or andouille sausage with barbecued shrimp. Fire-eaters have hit the mother lode. But there’s plenty for those who feel faint at the site of a jalapeno. Try the roasted garlic and eggplant dip served in a whole roasted onion. 1928 Greenville Ave., 214-826-2468. $$-$$$. (L-7)



Fogo de Chao. Fogo de Chao, a churrascaria in Addison with branches in Porto Alegre and Sào Paulo, serves traditional cookery from southern Brazil, starting with the traditional caipirinha (a little like a sweet margarita, with cachaca, a sugarcane liquor). Overwhelming abundance is the theme: A neverending parade of meat on long skewers is delivered by gaucho guys in amazing trousers and belts. Very exotic. 4300 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-503-7300. $$. (L-7)



D BEST The Grape. The secret is thai Dallas’ oldest and best v. ine bar is really one of its oldest and best restaurants- dim and atmospheric, with a blackboard menu that remains interesting and enticing (no matter how often the chef changes), and the tiniest, most romantic bar in town. 2808 Greenville Ave.. 214-828-1981. $$. (L-7)



D BEST The Green Room. This ’90s bistro continues to dish out some of most inventive cuisine to be found between New York and L.A. The menu is eclectically uptown, and the decor is strictly downtown rock ’n’ roll. The contrast between them is cool. At $34, the fixed-price, four-course. “Feed Me” menu is the best deal in town. 2715 Elm SI..2I4-748-ROOM. S$. (L-7)



FRENCH/CONTINENTAL



Arthur’s. Having marked its half-century mile-post, this continental steakhouse still deserves its reputation for dependably upscale adult dining. It’s clubby and suave in a retro kind of way. A fist-sized tenderloin filet was wonderful, and the martinis are ample. 8350 N. Central Expwy. (in Campbell Center). 214-361-8833. $$$. (M-3)



D BEST Barclays. Don come to Barclays expecting to find a pint of bitters and bangers and mash. This is upper-crust English fare with a European twist. Potato ravioli stuffed with Stilton cheese and wild mushrooms is of regal status. And if you’re looking for thai perfect place to “pop” the question or celebrate something special, look no further; this place is a gem. 2917 Fairmont St., 214-855-0700. $$-$$$. (K-7)



D REVISITS French Room. This is probably the pretties! dining room in Dallas. The dark green floors, rococo-style, cherub-flown ceiling, extravagant. Versailles-length drapes, and kind candlelight make it a near-Disney environment, the kind of place thai doesn’t quite mesh with the modern world. It’s only natural to expect perfect food that matches the fairy-tale room, but on our last visit, we were disappointed by reality. Sea bass in red wine sauce was fishy; tomato-lobster consommé was elegantly served, poured over a shrimp-and-crab-filled ravioli from a silver pitcher, but it was tepid. Sweetbread schnitzel was perfect, barely breaded and sautéed, then placed on a bed of asparagus ragout seasoned with smoked bacon. But maple marinated duck slices, though garnet rare and fanned perfectly around a nest of red cabbage, were undeniably chewy. Lamb ribeye, sweet and rare, was precisely matched with rosemary goat cheese polenta and tomato confit with basil, combining every Mediterranean high note in a single dish. Hotel Adolphus, 1321 Commerce St., 214-742-8200. $$$. (L-7)



Jennivine. Jennivine’s slightly anachronistic atmosphere, a quaint old house stranded in the massive new Uptown apartments, still delivers one of Dallas’ most unexpected dining experiences: fine food in tine surroundings at a fair price. Appetizers and entrées alike are first-rate. If you’re not up for one of the excellent meals, enjoy a glass of wine and a sampling of cheese or one of their many patés. 3605 McKinney Ave., 214-528-6010. $$. (L-7)



D BEST The Pyramid Room. That overused word, opulence, must be hauled out again-the Fairmont Hotel’s flagship restaurant demands it. Here is service and ambience that beggar less extravagant descrip- : tion. The food, loti, deserves superlatives. You can hardly ask for more cosseting at any price than that provided by this serenely cosmopolitan restaurant. Fairmont Hotel. 1717 N. Akard St., 214-720-5249. $$$. (K-7)



D BEST The Riviera. We knew the moment an airy avocado cream hors d’oeuvre passed our lips that we were doomed, once again, to a near-flawless dining experience. Each dish seems to outdo another. Food credits here mostly belong to Chef de Cuisine Michael ; Weinstein, one assumes, with input from David Holben, now executive chef at sibling restaurants Mediterraneo and Toscana. 7709 Inwood Rd., 214-351-0094. $$$. (K-7)



Watel’s. Sure, you’ll find weird organ meats like calves” brains doctored with capers and veal kidneys touched with mushrooms to satis- ; fy the strand of old-world gastronomic esoteri-ca that quivers in your palate. But you’ll also find exquisite contrasts like delicate rare tuna coaled with crunchy peppercorns and lightly structured grilled shrimp with red pepper coulis-all served in a crisp, clean space. 1923 McKinney Ave.. 214-720-0323. $$. (L-7)



GOURMET TO GO



Eatzi’s. Eatzi’s definitely lives up to its circus hype. Hear the strains of opera and waltz through the crowds collecting the already cooked makings of a gourmet dinner-down to the imported beer, fresh bread, and flowers. Or choose salads or sandwiches made to order. Checkout lines are infamously long. 3403 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-1515. $-$$. (K-7)



Marty’s Cafe TuGogh. The new cafe in the old store offers excellent food in confusing surroundings. A marinated salmon sandwich with caramelized onions, a beef tenderloin Caesar salad, and a tangy hearts of palm salad are all standouts. Marty’s is now a true wine bar with weekly wine-by-the-glass selections featuring some of the most distinctive pours from the world’s major wine regions-at jaw-dropping-ly reasonable prices ($4-$ 10). 3316 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-4070. $-$$. (K-7)



GREEK



Kostas Cafe. The food is simply Greek and simply good. Appetizer do’s: saganaki and dolmas (musts, really). Entree don’ts: souvlaki (tough and chewy). 4914 Greenville Ave., 214-987-3225. $$. (L-6)



D BEST Ziziki’s. Che wood bai of the places to be seen in Dallas, but it’s the neo-Mediterranean food that rules. Greek-styled lamb and shrimp star, and the Italian cream cake ends meals on a sweet note. The wines, from all over the globe, demonstrate the owners’ quest for the best. Visit the coffee bar/takeout shop. 4514 Travis St., Ste. 122. 214-521-2233. $$. (L-7)



HOME COOKING



Celebration. Bring your appetite to this longtime mecca for Dallas home-cooking purists. In this former residence are several dining areas, each housing a few tables. Entrées run the gamut from broiled fresh fish to pot roast to fried chicken, all accompanied by an endless supply of vegetables. Don’t worry if your entrée seems small-you can reorder as often as you wish. 4503 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351-5681.$. (K-6)



DC’s Cafe. You’ve been in powder rooms bigger than this super-clean little place, but you’ve had home cooking this fine only in your dreams of classic soul-food plate lunches at penny-ante prices. Pork chops, meatloaf, catfish et al come with three sides; business is about half-and-half eat-in and takeout, and we’ve never seen the room empty of patrons. 8224 Park Ln., 214-363-4348. $. (L-5)



INDIAN



Bombay Cricket Club. Lunch buffets are an Indian restaurant tradition, and Bombay Cricket Club’s lineup is excellent. A pretty setting, unfailingly polite service, and excellent food make this one of the top Indian restaurant in town. The quality is steady at lunch, which for some restaurants is a time not to try very hard. 2508 Maple Ave., 214-871-1333. $-$S. (K-7)



India Palace. Delicate spices imbue truly tine Indian cuisine. And. similar to a tine perfume, too much is an assault on the senses, too little and there’s no magic. India Palace has kepi the proper balance for nearly a decade and shows no signs of slowing down. 12817 Preston Rd., Ste. 105, 972-392-0190. $-$$. (K-4)



ITALIAN



Campisi’s Egyptian. It’s dark, outdated, and frankly, a dump. The food is predictable and mostly pedestrian, except the famous pizza. But all an institution has to do in order to succeed is endure. Dallas loves Campisi’s and has for decades. Cash or check only. 5610 E. Mockingbird Ln., 214-827-0355. $. (L-6)



Joey’s. Owner Joey Vallone and chef have created a menu of innovative Italian fare. If you aren’t a “High Profile” regular, chances are you’ll spend most of your evening at the bar of this dizzyingly decorated hot spot. Try the tower of vegetables glued together with Fontina cheese or the rigatoni Vallone with artichokes, asparagus tips, and Louisiana head-on prawns. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave.. 214-526-0074. $$.(K-7)



D BEST Mi Piaci. At all times, these hipper-than-hip rooms filled v, with people who look like they just stepped off the fashion pages. The menu focuses on classic Tuscan cuisine, with homemade pasta, made-to-order risotto, and superb breads. You’ll always see waiters expertly deboning the tender Dover sole for savvy diners. Our only complaint: The noise level can get pretty high. 14854 Montfort Dr., 972-934-8424. $$. (K-4)



Pomodoro. The white-tiled walls and floors and odd faucet-like lighting of this trendy dining spot give this Cedar Springs mainstay showerlike appeal. But this doesn’t take away from the charm of the little garlic trees that sit in the windows or the fresh flowers that grace each table. As for the food. Pomodoro deserves applause for consistent innovation. 2520 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-871-1924. $$. (L-7)



Ruggeri’s. It could be that success at its newer Addison spinoff has cost the Uptown original its reputation for dependably tine Italian dining. The formerly flawless food has been less consistent lately: The veal chop was huge and tender, but zabaglione was too much more than froth. The crowd is festive as always. 29! 1 Routh St, 214-871-7377 (K-7); 5348 Belt Line Rd. 972-726-9555. $$-$$$. (K-4)



D REVISITS Toscana. We can’1 understand why Dallas doesn’t have a moderately priced Italian restaurant that embraces the earthy charm and “cucina rustica” typical of Tuscany. Until that happens, we’ll gladly pay top dollar for Executive Chef David Holben’s fancier versions of Tuscan-based dishes. After being seated uncomfortably close to the next table, our waiter helped us through the massive wine list to a bottle with a reasonable price. Our appetizers alone were worth the visit: pan-seared, lemon-thyme calamari was light and delicious, and lightly creamed grilled com soup with toasted pine nuts was reminiscent of the hearty Tuscan soups of Florence. A Paparedella alia Bolo-gnese-wide noodles with veal in a tomato sauce-was authentic but came with a $17.50 price tag. As always, we indulged in our favorite dessert: a tiramisu bread pudding with a Frangelico anglaise sauce. 4900 McKinney Ave.. 214-521-2244. $$.(K-6)



JAPANESE



D BEST Nakamoto. Service tends to range from sublime to abrupt at this stylish, roomy Piano institution, but cuisine (tempura, sushi, and sashimi) remains uniform I y excellent. 3309 N. Central Expwy. at Parker Road, Piano. 972-881-0328. $$. (M-2)



D BEST Teppo. Our only yakitori bar is also one of the city’s most exciting sushi bars and a favorite weekend date destination as well. High-energy atmosphere, highly chic modern decor, and high-quality food make this one of Dallas’ best Japanese restaurants, even though the menu is mostly skewers and sushi. Be sure to try the specials. 2014 Greenville Ave., 214-826-8989. $$-$$$. (L-7)



MEDITERRANEAN



Adelmo’s. Some go for the food, some go for the intimacy, but almost everybody finds a reason to go back to this well-hidden gem. Service is unhurried and patient, and the wine list varied and reasonable. Entrées and appetizers alike feature creatively bold sauces that held our attention long after the main ingredients of the dishes had been devoured. 4537 Cole Ave., 214-559-0325. $$. (K-6)



D BEST Mediterraneo. The Quadrangle location will probablj be the pro-totype for future Mediterraneos. It’s a pretty restaurant, stylishly minimalist but surprisingly warm and welcoming, and the food-a balance of old and new ideas-is hard to find fault with.Crusts are all the rage: Halibut is mysteriously crab crusted, salmon has a polenta crust, and lamb is crusted with goat cheese. 2800 Routh St., 214-979-0002 (K-7); 18111 Preston Rd. at Frankford Road. Ste. 120. 972-447-0066. $$-$$$. (K-2)



MEXICAN



D BEST Avila’s. This is the food you’d come home to if you could and leave home for if you must, starting with the eye-watering salsa. Beef tacos are brim-full of good, greaseless ground beef, and a plump enchilada is perfectly partnered with a soft cheese taco. The refried beans are outstanding. The service is pleasant, and the restaurant is immaculate. 4714 Maple Ave.. 214-520-2700. $. (K-7)



Casa Rosa. There’s almost always a table avail- I able at pink-tinted Casa Rosa, but only because the place is so big. The appeal of the food would pack a smaller place. Casa Rosa does well with standards-except the chimichanga-but the finds here are the more unusual dishes like goal cheese chile relleno and mushroom enchiladas. 165 Inwood Village. 214-350-5227. $. (K-6)



Mattito’s. Matt Martinez Jr. himself doesn’t have anything to do with Mattito’s, but he did develop the recipes, and those didn’t change when he left. So the chile relleno and griddled flautas are excellent. The service is snappy, and what it lacks in charm, it makes up for in efficiency. 5290 Belt Line Rd. at Montfort Drive. Addison, 972-503-8100 (K-3); 4311 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-8181. $. (K-7)



Mia’s. For 14 years, this venerable institution has dished up definitive Tex-Mex food to addicts who stand in line on Tuesdays, when owner Ana Enriquez satisfies their lust for her incomparable chiles rellenos. Other days, they make do with house specialties. Service is cheerful; the setting is no-frills comfortable. The bad news: beer and wine only. 4322 Lemmon Ave., 214-526-1020. $. (K-7)



Monica Aca Y Alla. This cool place has been around long enough to be a tradition in these days of restaurants that open and close–especially in Deep Ellum. The ambitious menu offers intriguing Southwestern-inspired options as well as more standard Tex-Mex, in a hip and hopping ambience. New weekend brunch: (0 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday & Sunday. 2914 Main St., 214-748-7140. $$. (L-7)



Nuevo Leon. Excellent Mex-Mex food in a comfortable old Greenville Avenue location draws a mixed crowd but enthusiastic reviews. Cabrito is good, mole is excellent, carnitas are the best. 2013 Greenville Ave., 214-887-8148 (L-7); 12895 Josey Ln., 972-488-1984. $-$$. (J-4)



Pape & Mito’s. The vivid walls and bright lights mean this cafe looks noisy even though it’s not usually crowded. It should be-chips worth mentioning (thick, warm, slightly overcooked), cilantro-laced salsa, and standards like nachos and enchiladas are excellent. Tamales are utterly remarkable, and chicken and beef taquitos are still some of the best in town. 2935 Elm St., 214-741-1901. $. (L-7)



MIDDLE EASTERN



D REVISITS Ali Baba. You may not notice, but Ali Baba just underwent extensive remodeling- What is it, you may wonder, as you do when someone changes their hairstyle. (Have they lost weight? Did they shave their beard?) The little cafe looks basically the same-it just looks a little fresher, almost more rested, the way you’re supposed to look after a well-done blepharoplasty. That’s what a coat of fresh paint and some new decorations can do. The food, you’ll be happy to know, remains precisely the same. Order hummus and you get a bowl swirled with the garlicky purée, pooled with yellow olive oil, dusted with parsley and adorned with slick olives. That and a stack of hot pita could do you, but the grilled chicken is irresistible, and the tabbouleh, mostly chopped parsley with bits of bulgur and tomato, is a perfect counterpoint to the unctuous chickpea mash. Service is anonymously efficient, which in these days of waiters as new best friends, seems almost unfriendly. That’s OK. We love the hummus. 1905 Greenville Ave., 214-823-8235. $-$$. (L-7)



D BEST Cafe Izmir. A unique dining experi-ence: In this popular ing little cafe, diners choose a vegetarian or a meat-based meal rather than ordering from a menu. And then a parade of delightful food appears-lemon-zested tabbouleh, hummus. Mediterranean cole slaw, pita quarters, grilled kabob tubes of ground beef and marinated chicken, and lamb. A scarce Greek red wine called Boutari Maossa is a happy find here, and the sweet Turkish coffee in fragile cups is as irresistible as the desserts. 3711 Greenville Ave., 214-826-7788. $$.(L-7)



MOROCCAN

D BEST Marrakesh. Juki what is Moroccan cuisine, and what is it doing in Dallas? It is lamb and couscous and fresh vegetables spiced with mysterious combinations of nutmeg, paprika, and cumin-wonderful. The Moroccan Feast-a sample of almost everything on the menu-is a bargain at $25.95 per person. Vibrant Middle-Eastern music accompanied a veiled belly dancer in a purple bra who gyrated and finger-cymbaled her way around the room. 5207 W. Lovers Ln., 214-357-4104.$$, (L-6)



NEW AMERICAN



Fog City Diner. The menu here has always been satisfyingly familiar, with enough finesse and invention to make you feel like you’ve dined, not merely fed. Service is smooth, and the salmon, bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is particularly good-each element actually excellent, and the sum superlative. 2401 McKinney Ave., 214-220-2401. $$. (K-7)



Gershwin’s. Pretty people, pretty food, pretty prices set the scene for power lunching in this California-influenced Upper Greenville emporium, where on-track careerists linger over creative fare noontimes and gather after work to share single malts, tall foods, and to people-watch. An outstanding wine list, too. 8442 Walnut Hill Ln., 214-373-7171. $$-$$$. (L-5)



Landmark Restaurant. Landmark’s menu may make you wish for an atlas and a thesaurus to find your way around, but if you’ll close your eyes, forget about the origin of your vegetables, and eat them, you’ll have a great trip. The New American food here, under the direction of Jim Anile, is ultra-imaginative, if highly complicated. And the gently refurbished room remains one of the most gracious in town. In the Melrose, 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-521-5151.$$-$$$. (K-7)



The Mansion on Turtle Creek. This isn’t dinner. it’s a dining experience. A dramatic, country club-like, members-only dining experience. The Grande Dame of Dallas dining lives up to its legend-the atmosphere is inimitably posh, the food is predictably innovative. The price? If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214-526-2121. $$$. (K-7)



Nana Grill. The new menu broadens Nana’s focus from Southwestern to Regional American. We found the transition mostly hard to fault. Service is supremely suave and caring, the accouterments define luxe, and the ambience is as comfortably refined as always in this upscale establishment. In the Wyndham Anatole Hotel Tower, 2201 Stemmons Fwy., 214-761-7479. $$$. (K-7)



Seventeen Seventeen. Artful dining at the Dallas Museum of Art is a definitive Dallas experience. Chef George Brown creates abstract expressionist plates of food, inspired by cuisines from all over the world-the best are those inspired by the orient. Don’t skip without tasting one of the fantasy desserts, dreamed up by pastry chef Katie Brown. 1717 N. Harwood St., 214-880-0158. $$-$$$. (K-7)



Sevy’s. The thoroughly American Prairie-style interior perfectly complements chef-owner Jim Severson’s hearty American cuisine. The plates here present classic ideas with imaginative updates. The menu is varied but beef is a reliable choice-the tenderloin is slightly hickory smoked. The marinated mushroom appetizer is the best portobello in town. 8201 Preston Rd., 214-265-7389. $$. (K-6)



SEAFOOD



AquaKnox. Stephan Pyles’ swanky seafood spot on Knox has commanded national attention, and the swell decor and meticulous food mostly merit it. Luscious red snapper in red curry masa is an example of Chef Lisa Balliet’s global approach to seafood. The rich and the wannabes are sipping bright blue Aquatinis in the elegant lounge, eating from a simpler menu that includes platters of splendidly fresh jumbo shrimp, oysters, clams, and small-plate versions of the dinner entrées, an excellent option tor those who want a taste of the high life without the high tab. 3214 Knox St., 214-219-2782.$$$. (L-7)



Cafe Pacific. Cafe Pacific continues to delight as one of Dallas” most reliable luncheon and dinner restaurants, as well as the place to witness the social structure of Dallas’ power people in action. Menu favorites like calamari, clam chowder, Caesar salad, salmon, and red snapper are superbly prepared and presented by an experienced waitstaff. 24 Highland Park Village, 214-526-1170. $$-$$$. (K-6)



Daddy Jack’s. Chef Jack Chaplin’s tiny restaurant with its casual, cozy atmosphere is perfect for a date or for just breezing in after a day at the lake. But forget about atmosphere. What we’re really talking about is fantastic, though richly prepared, seafood. Also worth noting are the relaxed, efficient service and fair prices: The experience is worth every penny. 1916 Greenville Ave., 214-826-4910. $$. (L-7)



Fish. This elegant downtown spot got very hot very fast, and it may have gone to their heads. Not only have we seen inconsistencies in the food, but service has been snooty. When they’re on, the acclaimed Green Soup-a shallow bowl piled high with shells, legs, and tails protruding recklessly from a broth-is divine. Late menu nightly from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 302 S. Houston St.. 214-747-3474. $$-$$$. (K-7)



D BEST Lombardi Mare. Don’t be put off by the nondescript exterior. I he rior is a mind-blower. Lighting fixtures designed to appear like a school of fish swim across the ceiling. Feast on five types of farm-fresh oysters, shrimp cocktail, steamed mussels, and lobster, and finish with Tuscan pudding. 5100 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-503-!233.$$.(K-4)



SOUTHWESTERN



D BEST Star Canyon. A real star, this is the place that most visitors would like to go but usually usually can’t-tables are booked for weeks ahead. It’s worth giving it a shot. Superchef Stephan Pyles has a gift for slipping happy surprises into even the most mundane-sounding dishes. For instance, coriander-cured venison lived up to its reputation, grilled rare and sliced into rosy petals complemented by whipped yam and an assertive dried-fruit empanada. Service is friendly and fast, and the decor is legendary. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave.. 214-520-7827. $$. (K-7)



SPANISH



Cafe Madrid. Dallas’ first tapas cafe is as tiny a place as the tapas. And besides the two dozen or so tapas always available, a daily changing blackboard lists many more, including everything from potato omelet to crisp-fried baby smelt, from wine-poached rabbit to blood sausage. That last is a near-religious experience. 4501 Travis St., 214-528-1731. $$. (L-6)



La Tasca Espanola. So many tapas, so little time. You can make a meal by choosing two or three from the list of 22-and do it for under $20. Tortilla Espanola, a thick, pie-shaped omelet, was a standout. Entrees include exceptional paella valenciana-a lovely presentation of mussels, clams, shrimp, chicken, and cala-mari with saffron rice and peas. Home of the friendliest staff in Dallas, this place is trying hard and succeeding. 4131 Lomo Alio Dr., 214-599-9563. $$. (K-6)



STEAK HOUSES

Bob’s Steak & Chop House. This place dazzles with juicy, tasty cuts of meat-coupled with veggie and potato-and pleasant, attentive service. All at the appropriate price. 4300 Lemmon Ave., 214-528-9446, $$-$$$. (K-7)



D BEST Chamberlain’s Prime Chop House. Prime rib and a trimmed-to-lean ribeye are robustly rare and complemented with garlic mashed potatoes. Figure in service that is, if not clairvoyant, almost uncannily empathetic, and you’ll have some grasp of the comfortable ambience thai keeps this cigar-friendly outpost filled even on weekday evenings. 5330 Bell Line Rd., Addison. 972-934-2467. $$-$$$. (K-4)



Kirby’s Steakhouse. Unlike the in-town reincarnation of the 1950s original, this vast place has Piano-style prosperity written all over it-#11 upscale splendor with a midscale attitude. The menu’s the same, though-mostly steaks, with the usual few seafood and fowl entrées, plus starters and a list of à la carte sides. 3408 Preston Rd., 972-867-2122 (K-l); 3525 Greenville Ave., 214-821-2122. $$. (L-6)



The Palm. General manager A] Biernat has built this steak-and-lobster New York import into the downtown power-lunch spot. Come to see-and-be-seen. and maybe even to cut a deal. It seems the kitchen has been working hard to right recent food faux pas. 701 Ross Ave., 214-698-0470. $$-$$$.


Paul’s Porterhouse. Devoted fans of this Restaurant Row mainstay make a compelling argument that it deserves a prominent spot in your regular red-meat rotation. The menu features an array of steak variations, and choices are thick, tine cuts of meat cooked exactly to order. Unexpected alternatives like ostrich and game complicate your entrée decision; so might the taxidermy decor. 10960 Composite Dr., 214-357-0279. $$$. (J-5)



THAI



Chow Thai. A strip shopping center doesn’t seem a likely spot for a Thai food epiphany, but you’ll have one here. Excellent Thai classics like vegetables in a fiery green curry and pad Thai taste clean and light. A dessert of fresh mango atop sticky rice is a spectacular ending. 5290 Beltline Rd. at Montfort Drive, Addison, 972-960-2999. $$. (K-3)



Royal Thai. Furnished with ornate Thai antiques and traditional arts. Royal Thai is a pleasantly upscale change from the starkly serviceable interiors of so many Thai restaurants. Chicken packets are wrapped in tenderizing banana leaves. Curries are fragrant and benefit from their presentation under a little domed top. In Old Town, 5500 Greenville Ave., 214-691-3535. $-$$. (L-6)



VIETNAMESE



Mai’s Oriental Cuisine. The Vietnamese menu is the one to go for. Proprietor Mai Pham opened the first Vietnamese restaurant in Dallas, and her food is still terrific at her little restaurant in Snider Plaza. The hot pots are especially good-“hot chic” is the regulars’ favorite. 6912 Snider Plaza, 214-361-8220. $-$$. (L-6)



Saigon Bistro. Authentic Vietnamese food translated into English. Saigon Bistro aims for the authenticity of a point-and-order Vietnamese restaurant, without the risk. The menu lets you know what to expect, and this is one of the only places in town that serves “festive beef,” a special occasion dinner in Vietnam-one you shouldn’t miss. 17390 Preston Rd., Ste. 490, 972-380-2766. $-$$. (K-3)



TARRANT COUNTY



Angelo’s Barbecue. The Fort Worth landmark is one of the bookends of Dallas-Fort Worth area barbecue, its Dallas counterpart being the original Sonny Bryan’s. Famous for fabulous ribs smoked so tender the meat falls off the bone at the slightest nudge from the incisors, which are properly enjoyed with a couple of Shiners, sitting under a dozen taxidermifled beast heads. 2533 White Settlement Rd., Fort Worth, 817-332-0357. (A-9)

Angeluna. Come to see and be seen, but not heard. The food somewhat redeems the jack-hammer decibel levels. The “one-world-cuisine” features multicultural dishes with arty presentations. Don’t miss Joe’s Shrimp Pae-sano-lightly breaded jumbo prawns sautéed in vodka-lemon butter. Skip the goat’s milk ice cream and splurge on the Key lime tart. 215 E. 4th St., Fort Worth, 817-334-0080. $$. (B-9)



Cattlemen’s Steak House. Fort Worth ate cattle before cattle was cool, and Cattlemen’s is still the quintessential stockyard steakhouse. There’s not much but beef accompanied by rolls, potatoes, and iceberg lettuce salad, but the atmosphere is genuine cowboy. 2458 N. Main St., 817-624-3945. $$-$$$. (B-9)



D BEST Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Dishes. The quintessential Fort Worth restaurant, Its location near the Stockyards is a rambling plantation that can handle the crowds for whom the restaurant’s status hovers somewhere between “institution” and “nirvana.” Wait for a spot outside by the pool and order the enchilada dinner. Joe doesn’t do credit cards or reservations, either. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817-626-4356. $$. (B-9)



D BEST Reata. The flavors purveyed (upscale, ranch-contemporary) were crisp and deftly defined. With a good wine list, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a thick glaze of Western decor (including a menu finished in leather), you’d have to be a pretty crusty cowboy not to be roped-in. 35th floor, Bank One Tower, 500 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth, 817-336-1009. $$-$$$. (B-8)

D REVISITS Reflections. Surely among the most gracefully romantic dining settings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Worthington Hotel’s flagship restaurant in downtown Fort Worth offers a refined escape from the high-decibel stress that mars so many of the area’s upscale establishments. Here, music wafts gently from somewhere, and conversation can actually be heard across candle-lit tables. Both intuitive service and avant bill of fare lived up to the ambience on our visit, although not without a few hiccups: Mediterranean artichoke bisque was an elegant infusion, but a salad of baby greens had been lightly sprinkled rather than tossed in raspberry vinaigrette, leaving all but the topmost leaves dry. Strangely, the excellent house-made bread we wanted with our starters arrived with entrées instead-and with it a hearty tapenade that would have been wonderful as an hors d’oeuvre but clashed with the delicate pan-seared foie gras with sautéed apples (an appetizer ordered as a main dish) and grilled, whiskey-sauced ostrich medallions with red lentil risotto. 200 Main St., Fort Worth, 817-882-1660 or 800-433-5677. $$$. (B-8)



Saint Emilion. Some are surprised to see this Fort Worth restaurant on the list of top 10 restaurants in the area. But the brick-walled, country French atmosphere is charming and the food is mostly terrific. The wine list features many vintages from the Saint Emilion region, as you might expect. 3617 W. 7th St., Fort Worth, 817-727-2781. $$$. (B-9)

SIDEDISH

Good Food for a Good Cause



Women still man the stoves In home kitchens, but professional kitchens are mostly male territory. But Les Dames d’Escoffier, a group of women professionals in wine, food, and hospitality, is dedicated to supporting women in these fields.

The Dallas chapter’s “Raiser Grazer” fund-raiser combines support with appreciation of fine food and wine. This year, each chef will create a special food pairing for an assigned wine at the event, themed “Wine, Women, and Food.” Proceeds will provide scholarships for women in the food and wine program at El Centro. It will beheld on Sunday, March 1,from8to9p.m., at the Fairmont Hotel. Tickets are $35. For information, call 972-301-6233.